Student Successes

Kelsey A. Bonfils

Ph.D in Clinical Psychology

What degree are you working toward?

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?

I was excited to engage in clinical work with complex cases, embedded in community agencies where I could learn how to work on multidisciplinary teams. IUPUI is really a cut above most graduate programs both in their research emphasis and their clinical training opportunities.

There are a number of reasons I chose to attend graduate school at IUPUI. First, as a local, I already knew what a great school IUPUI is, and I was familiar with the positivity and collaborative atmosphere in the Psychology Department. I had also already had the opportunity to work with Dr. Michelle Salyers during my time as an undergraduate, so I knew that I would thrive under her mentorship at the graduate level. Dr. Salyers’ research also aligns well with my own interests, and having a Severe Mental Illness track in the Clinical Psychology program means there is an excellent network of other researchers and students with compatible interests, as well. Lastly, our Clinical Psychology program is unique in that we have a wide variety of clinical training opportunities available in the community. I was excited to engage in clinical work with complex cases, embedded in community agencies where I could learn how to work on multidisciplinary teams. IUPUI is really a cut above most graduate programs both in their research emphasis and their clinical training opportunities.

What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?

My favorite accomplishment since starting graduate school is also the most recent – obtaining a prestigious internship position at the Semel Institute at UCLA for the upcoming year. In all clinical psychology programs, students must complete a year of clinical internship prior to receiving their degree. The application and interviewing process is arduous, but I found it to be very exciting and rewarding. I traveled the country to interview at a number of sought-after internship sites and was able to talk with some of the biggest researchers in my area of study. While this was intellectually stimulating and validating to me as a researcher, I was also able to use these discussions to bring more recognition to the great things we have going on at IUPUI. Obtaining such an excellent internship placement feels like the culmination of all of my training, and I am excited to begin a new chapter in my training with this internship.

What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?

Having grown up in Indianapolis and attended undergrad at IUPUI, I obviously liked it enough to stick around! There are so many things to enjoy about the city and the surrounding suburbs. For me, I really like the close proximity of several state or national parks. I also appreciate the reduced traffic and low cost of living! For me, a big bonus of attending graduate school in Indianapolis is having my family be local. It has been great to have their support as I moved through such a busy time in my life.

Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.

My research and clinical work focus on the social cognitive deficits seen in people diagnosed with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and psychosocial treatments we can implement to best help this group. For my preliminary project, I conducted a meta-analysis examining deficits in empathy for people with schizophrenia. I found that people with schizophrenia report reduced experience of affective empathy, or the experience of empathic emotion when seeing another in a difficult situation (e.g., feeling sad when your friend is sad because she lost a close relative), but that their experience of personal distress, or the experience of maladaptive negative emotions when seeing others in a difficult situation, is heightened. This work has since produced two first-authored publications in well-respected journals in my field. Subsequently, I designed my dissertation project to examine whether the experience of personal distress negatively impacts empathic performance. I hope this project and my future work will enhance the field’s understanding of what contributes to deficits in social cognition in this group as well as how we might best intervene to alleviate those deficits.

Kelsey is also a recipient of the IUPUI Travel Fellowship award. Read more about her Travel Fellowship here »